Mark Chassman is Co-Founder of The Social Leadership Academy, a global talent and business incubator helping leaders with desire cross over from employee or solopreneur, to a high performing team builder and sustainable entrepreneur.
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Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- Mark lent his partner $$, and his partner used the funds… not for business, but for personal stuff. That’s when Mark knew their vision did not align, and the downward spiral began…
Small Business Resource
- GLS Next App: Leaders worldwide leverage Global Leadership Summit events to sharpen their skills and unleash their full potential.
Best Business Book
- Change Agent by Os Hillman
Mark: JLD I am ready to ignite, let’s do it.
John: Yes, Mark is cofounder of the Social Leadership Academy, a global talent and business incubator, helping leaders who desire crossover from employee or solopreneur, to a higher performing team builder and sustainable entrepreneur. Mark, take am minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse into your personal life.
Mark: Well, I would be happy to do that. First and foremost, I am a hot husband of 25 years to an amazing wife, Joann, I’m am a father of three phenomenal children, 23-years old, 18 years old and 13 years old and all finding their way in the world. I am truly passionate about mentoring aspiring entrepreneur’s because I believe that life here on Earth is for the purpose of growing our character and that there is no better way to grow your character, than to decide to become an entrepreneur.
Basically, I define success as each and every day; growing, growing in character, growing in know-how, growing in spirit and helping others do exactly the same. So, through this whole process and mission that I have with my team, to help these aspiring entrepreneur’s succeed in their lives, this is what I am about.
John: If you had to guess Mark, just a gut shot, by the time each one of your kids turns 30 years old, how many of them will be considered as entrepreneur’s, zero, one, two or three?
Mark: Actually, I would say three. I have really hammered home the benefits of living life this way and I have two people who have gone out into the world and tried to earn as an employee and I have seen the frustration and struggle they have had so far. So, they are coming back to Dad and saying, okay, help me understand how to do this entrepreneur thing.
John: Mark, you have been able to be an example of the kind of lifestyle that can be led as an entrepreneur, but as Fire Nation, you and I know, it’s not supper easy and that is why I like to focus first and foremost, on revenue. Because, if we want to have a sustainable business, if we want to grow our business and if we want to sustain that lifestyle, we need to make money. So, Mark, how do you generate revenue today?
Mark: Well, what a great question and I love the today part, because there is always what we are trying to do and what we are doing today. So, today we generate our revenues by coaching aspiring entrepreneurs on how to grow through their struggles and we find them using social media, put them through a process that we call a fellowship process and that is how we identify the serious people who are willing to, in essence, pay for that type of coaching.
Because we now know JLD, what you are about, we are literally in the process of building a media platform called Profit Pathway. We are building out a podcast, we just a month ago became number one in New and Noteworthy on iTunes following your strategy and maybe some people think we talked about this beforehand, but we didn’t.
Mark: Using email, websites and social media to engage more potential customers around the world and we are going through the potential growth pains that come with adopting different ways of trying to engage our customers.
John: Mark, it has been great to see you expand the diversity of your revenue stream, your media platforms and the success you have had in podcasting and in iTunes, specifically following the perfect launch plan via free podcast course and Podcast is Paradise, so congratulations on that and we are proud of you.
And guess what, you weren’t always this rock star, rocking number one in iTunes and you weren’t always generating massive revenue from your clients. You have had some ups and downs and that is what I want to talk about next, are the downs, specifically, your worst entrepreneurial moment. Now Mark, tell us that story, take us to that moment in time, and share that with us.
Mark: Well, let me take you to that moment in time. I spent 20 years in that kind of corporate business life and was always struggling with this internal desire to be free. So, finally broke through on that and I was with Facebook early on, as their 43rd employee, and I learned a great deal from that experience, and I went out to attempt to build my first entrepreneurial business and I went out to do that with four other guys.
I kind of took from the playbook, No.1 you need to be aligned around a purpose that is greater than yourself and I thought we had spent a lot of time, effort and energy getting there. The first time, there was kind of some adversity, in one of these individuals lives, and their financial needs, kind of became the priority and they reveled their true character.
I loaned the business and loaned this actual gentleman this money that was supposed to be used to enhance the business and he used it for personal purposes and then never paid the money back and didn’t ever really acknowledge that there was debt to be paid back to me. I learned a great deal, to what it takes to evaluate and judge people’s characters before you get married into a business endeavor with those people. It was a tough lesson, but one I had to learn.
John: There are a lot of lessons from this and I do kind of look back on my journey and I am thankful in a lot of ways, because I went at this alone. I wasn’t relying on anybody else or on another partner, as I grow my business and there are pros and cons to that. There are a lot of cons and a lot of things that I didn’t know that a partner could have come in and helped grow the business faster or XYZ, but again, then there are cons when you are hearing about sometimes you don’t align or you grow differently or in different directions.
There are a lot of things that go into that, so there is no right or wrong way to start a business. Whether it is by yourself, or with a partner or a small team, but one thing that I do want to make very clear is that, over 11 hundred episodes, it is so obvious that you have to sit down with that partner or with that team, from day one and make sure that your goals are 100 percent aligned.
Now, that might shift going down because you can’t change the future or predict it specifically, but you need to make sure from day one to give yourself the best opportunity and you are as aligned as possible and constant check ins and constant communication to make sure you are on that same path. Now Mark, that is my big take ways from what happened to you and the struggles you went through, leaving Facebook, to do that must have bene really tough to look back upon, but you have learned a lot. So, what is the one thing that you learned, that you really want to make sure Fire Nation just gets from that story?
Mark: It’s a perfect carryover into the take ways that I have from my Facebook experience and as this, kind of horrible first effort in trying to build my own enterprise. Really that is about true entrepreneur’s, they exhibit a bias for making decisions and then experiencing failure differently than maybe most people think about failure. What I believe, is that failure is a requirement, and that in order to move forward you have got to take that experience and learn and grow from it.
It’s kind of fast fail. We have heard this a million times from entrepreneurs, this whole failing fast. When working at Facebook, I think, Mark Zuckerburg was 22 ½ years old when I joined him, and he had just dropped out of Harvard and moved out to Palo Alto and raised $30 million to build this amazing business, that we know of today, but in that time and in that place, he was making a lot of mistakes.
It was very apparent to us, who were his supporters and team members that he was making them, but he was making them by design. He had a real commitment to kind of, okay, do something, experience it, iterate from it, do something experience and then iterate from it, so that you could ultimately get to a place where you are serving your customers to the best of your ability.
So, all of that was kind of an integrated way of saying that, you know, if you can look at failure with that lens and it’s not about the emotion that comes with it, but is about what you learn from it and take it and move forward, you will eventually be a successful entrepreneur.
John: We can look at hindsight and back and Mark Zuckerburg’s success in Facebook and say yeah, that we failure by design, because obviously it worked out, but let’s be honest. At the time, were you like, dude, what is this kid doing?
Mark: Well, I was crazy in the beginning or I thought I was crazy in the beginning, joining this organization, for that exact reason. I was 43 years old, so I was actually the oldest employee hired by Facebook at the time and my boss was, like I said, a Harvard drop out. Yes, inside of me I was questioning, probably every move that he made. One of the first moves that he made, early on when I was there, Facebook, at the time, was just open to people who were in college.
You had to have a .eu email address from a university that you were currently attending in order to get on and become a member of Facebook.
John: So, I was actually in the military at that time and I joined Kansas State Grad School to get an edu, so I could join Facebook.
Mark: That was a smart entrepreneurial decision that you made.
John: But, his first decision, kind of strayed away from that and was, I want to open up Facebook to high school students. Well, not only did his staff think he was crazy and nuts, but obviously there was backlash that came from his current community of college students.
Because those who graduated from high school; don’t want to be involved in their little brothers lives and they don’t want their little brothers and sisters involved in their lives. This was a huge kind of blow up within the organization and the press grabbed it, and lots of craziness happened.
But, Mark stayed true to his mission and at the time, the definition of the mission was, we are about helping enable people so that they can share the things that they care about, with the people that they care about and this is not a college students’ platform. This ultimately is going to be a platform for everybody, as to when we decide to open it up and whether we think this is the right time or the wrong time to do that, we will learn from this experience.
John: What a cool insight, that was cool and thanks for sharing it. Mark, I want to do a shift into another story. You have had a ton of ah- ha moments, you know, I’m sure with Facebook and beyond, but what is one ah-ha moment that you’ve had and that you just know, Fire Nation, our listeners and entrepreneurs are really going to get a lot out of. Again, just like you told that story, the worst moment, what is that ah-ha moments, tell us that story and take us to that moment in time.
Mark: Having clarity around what your mission or your purpose is and these things sound very tripe, but it’s really about overall, when all is said and done and let’s say you get taken out and the business has to carry on, why were you here and what were you here to create?
I use that example, like I said, with Mark’s mission of helping people share the things that they care about with the people that they care about, you know, I think people can relate that back to what is Facebook today. It’s this billion-person vehicle, that is serving billions of people all over the world, who are sharing what they care about with the people that they care about. He focused, like rock solid, on that mission.
Facebook, at the time, was not the first social media available for people to use. There was Myspace that was already out there and Friendster was way ahead of the game. So, at glance, you think, this is crazy, you are coming in as the third competitor to people who already have a foundation stability in the this space. It was not being in the social media space, it was about serving a need, based on a problem, that the founder and in this case, Mark saw in staying true to that. Today, I still believe, the company, without me being there, is still true to that mission.
John: Okay, so that was Facebook and was an ah-ha moment that you’ve had, but I’m really looking for a story Mark. I’m looking for a story in your life, when you had an ah-ha moment, that you acted upon and it turned into success. I want to hear that.
Mark: Absolutely, so, the moment that I had for myself, was really again, kind of breaking from the traditional world of corporate America and I was at AOL at one time. When they merged, it was AOL and Timeware, it was the biggest corporate merger in U.S. history, I realized from the beginning that this was never going to work, because they were completely two different cultures.
I realized that creating a culture and then hiring people to that culture is critical, because if you’re a young startup energized organization versus a 75 year old organization that had tried and true process and beliefs about how to do business, if you try and come together and make those things work, things are just going to blow up. So, from the beginning of the entrepreneurial efforts that I tried to put forth in my life, I’ve tried to identify people who can fit that culture and who came move quickly and learn and fail quickly.
As a result of having those kinds of people, we have been able to adjust, change and shift our model to scale a lot quicker then we could have, if we had people who weren’t of the right mindset. So, again, in this whole idea of the social leadership academy that we are now in, it was all about moving with those people who knew how to move with the thinking that we had in place and hat thinking was, failing quickly in order to ultimately succeed quickly. That is why we are where we are today in leveraging the platforms that you have presented to us, very quickly, learning quickly to make that work for us.
John: So, all of that being said, what is the one thing that you really want to make sure that our listeners get from that ah-ha moment?
Mark: Again, the one thing is when you are looking for people to join you organization and, as you said John, a lot of people are solopreneurs for a reason, they are uncomfortable bring other people in their business. I believe that teams ultimately win and teams ultimately attract resources and teams ultimately are the ones who have the biggest impact. So, my point it that I am a big believer that teams are the ones that we should be thinking about trying to build. So, the ah-ha from that is, when you are picking members for your team, make sure that you have defined your values and your culture clearly, so that the people that you being in, fit that model.
John: I do love that phrase that you shared about Facebook, which is, the overall mission there is to allow people what they are about with who they care about. That is just very clear on so many levels. Noe Mark, what is your biggest weakness, as an entrepreneur?
Mark: I love that question. My biggest weakness is again, the just kind of believing in people, maybe beyond a level that they can see for themselves. I believe that if you are of sound, in essence, character, and believe that you can bring real value to the world, that you can learn anything. I have seen it and I have seen people who, again, don’t have background and degrees and certain things, because of their desire to learn for example, social media, social marketing and all of the those kinds of things, because of a desire. Sometimes, my weakness is that I believe in people, maybe more than they can believe in themselves.
John: I think the word, sometimes, is important there, because there have definitely been examples where you have believed in somebody, because of you confidence, they have gained confidence and went on to achieve more than they ever thought they could.
Mark: And sometimes, with what you just said, they go on outside of your organization, to do that. The question is whether or not, as a leader, you are comfortable with that. I believe, that in any organization, if you are going to grow, you have to prune.
Sometimes that pruning comes when maybe you don’t anticipate it and that means you have to let people go off and do their thing and become successful in whatever venue that they think they can become successful in, but I believe it comes full circle. I believe that if you grow people, you will grow your business and they will go out there and have great impact in the world, which then I think comes back to you. So, there is the karma thing that I kind of have a belief in.
John: What is your biggest strength Mark?
Mark: My biggest strength, is just knowing how to stay focused on what matters, in what I call, next. I am not a big, let’s boil the ocean and put a big business plan together and try to execute the business plan. I am a big, let’s take this step and learn from it and then take the next step. So, I am about staying focused on that and I call it, staying focused on what matters next.
John: Focus, Fore Nation, follow one course until success. What is the one thing that has you more fired up than anything else, right now Mark?
Mark: Well, the one thing that I am most fired up about is the opportunity to take what other might view, like a said, as failures and some of our members of our team are actually doing what I just said. They are choosing to maybe leave and do their own thing and learn and grow from it and bring in new energy, bring in people who might not be able to take our organization to the next level. So, as I said before, pruning is part of the process and I am excited about this next phase that we are going through this pruning process on, of maybe moving some people out to maybe bring some new people in and put more energy behind our efforts.
John: Well, Fire Nation, one thing that we are not pruning, is the lightning round, so don’t go anywhere because we are about to take a minute to thank our sponsors. Mark, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Mark: Let’s light it up.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Mark: Well, with kind of the life that I led and climbing the corporate ladder, I got to a place where, you know, maybe some would consider the top of the ladder. Where I was comfortable with the trapping of being a high-level corporate executive and this was in my AOL days, I was a vice president of adverting sales, here in Chicago.
I had a corner office looking over Lake Michigan and I had a company car and stock options that were sitting there for me to potentially vest, although none of them were worth anything at the end of my 6 and half year run at AOL. I think you just become comfortable with what you know and that was keeping me from leaping out and taking the risk.
John: What is the best advice that you have ever received?
Mark: Well, the best advice that I ever received was back in my days at San Diego State University.
Mark: Called Delta Sigma Pi and our motto was, he profits most who serves best. It is very simple, but I find it playing over and over again in my head today, as I outline there before, there are other players in the social media space that have come around Facebook. They are still around and the other two are, I don’t even know if they are still around, but they are profiting because they are serving best.
John: What is a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Mark: I do, what I call, my daily hour of power. Which is every single morning I wake up at 6:15 a.m. and by 6:30 a.m. I am in it. It includes solitude, prayer, mental preparation, which is either reading or podcasting, on a topic that seems to be kind nagging at me and then I break a sweat with exercise and that is my daily hour of power.
John: What is an internet resource, like an Evernote, that you can share with our listeners?
Mark: I have an ap that is called GLS Next and GLS Next comes from what is called the Global Leadership Summit. It happens every year, and is really about helping equip and transforms leaders, from all over the world, and they are doing all kinds of different things.
Whether you are a for profit or nonprofit, it doesn’t really matter. They have created an ap with videos from amazing leaders speaking on various different topics, that what I go back to, when I talk about my hour of power and I look at that mental prep time, I spend a lot of time on my GLS Next ap.
John: If you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Mark: The name of the book that I would recommend is called, Change Agent and the sub text of that is, engaging your passion to be the one that makes a difference. It is by Os Hillman and I think, that engaging your passion is foundational and passion is energy and living out, kind of that motto that I talked about, he profits most who serves best. You know people are serving, you know people are committed to their mission, when you can feel the energy that comes from them.
I truly believe that when you know what that passion is, that thing that fuels you, that is when everything starts to fall into place. So, engaging your passion, creates that energy, it ultimate is an attractor and attracts the best people and resources that you need. Its’ not about pursuing money, it’s not about pursuing capital, it’s about figuring what that passion is and using that as fuel to attract the things that you need for your business.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. Mark, this is the last question of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine that you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all of the experience and knowledge that you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00, what would you do in the next seven days?
Mark: That is a doozy and great question. I think, first I would wake up every morning, all seven days and engage in my hour of power that is kind of my fuel for the day. I would hope that with my laptop I would have connective so I can actually go online and connect with people. What I would be looking for are people who I could serve.
I would continue to try to solve the problem, that I believe I was created to solve, and that being helping aspiring entrepreneur’s grow through their struggle of becoming a sustainable entrepreneur. I would take that $500.00 and invest it in the process and evaluate where I would think that bet would best placed in order to get back on my mission, so that is what I would do.
John: Well Mark, we started today on fire, I want to end today on fire, so share a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you and then we will say goodbye.
Mark: A parting piece of guidance is again, don’t look at what we call failure, as failure, look at it as an opportunity to iterate and move forward. Stay focused on if you know what your purpose is to stay focused on, eventually you are going to success, you will be profitable and you can sustain this endeavor and it could change your life. We benefit from hearing JLD’s stories about how he gets to do what he does, in a way that he can leave his desk in San Diego and go out to the world and serve and continue to grow this business.
That is the passion belief that I have for everybody who is listening to this today. Best way to get in touch with me is, at [email protected] I know that is a mouthful, so we have turned the sort of website or online brand to Profit Pathway, so if you want to go to our website, its www.profitpw.com and there is a contact button there, and you can contact me that way as well.
John: Wow. Well Fire Nation, you know this, you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with Mark and JDL today, so keep up the heat and head over to eufire.com, just type Mark in the search bar and his show notes page will pop up with everything that we have been talking about today. Recommended resource book, of course, his email address, [email protected] and that will be linked up on the show notes page.
You can check out his site, pw.com and go directly there and that will also be linked up on the show notes page. Mark, I want to thank you brother, r sharing your journey with Fire Nation today and for that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Mark: Thanks for having me.
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